Reviews for IPCD 1016-2
La Scala Orchestra
Kenneth Morgan - Classical Recordings Quarterly, Summer 2012
Fritz Reiner’s comment that Toscanini’s “superb artistic ability” had something that other conductors lacked – “a huge, a colossal, concentrated energy” that maintained musical excitement “to the very end of the performance, without becoming distracted or exhausted” is borne out here. The Beethoven overtures are tautly exciting, with the silences adding to the tension of the notes played, and with the powder kept dry for the pulsating codas for each work. The La Scala strings excel in the seraphic sincerity of the first act prelude to Lohengrin. Beethoven’s First Symphony – a Toscanini speciality – is vibrant and fleet-footed, with a perfectly judged transition from the opening chords of the finale to the swift passage work that follows.
The performances are riveting. Toscanini knew how to rise to the occasion of a special concert . . . his interpretations are assured, idiomatic, and viscerally dramatic . . . . Strongly recommended.
La Scala Orchestra
Lynn Bayley - FANFARE, May / June 2012
BEETHOVEN Overtures: Egmont; Leonore No. 2. Symphony No. 1. SMETANA The Moldau. R. STRAUSS Death and Transfiguration. Don Juan. WAGNER Tannhäuser: Overture and Bacchanale. Lohengrin: Preludes to acts I and III. Die Meistersinger: Prelude to act I
Arturo Toscanini, cond; La Scala • IMMORTAL PERFORMANCES 1015-2 (2 CDs: 152:11) Live: Lucerne and Venice
Let’s start this review with the salient details of issue. This is the first time the Lucerne concert of July 7, 1946, has been issued complete by the same label, though each item has been available previously. The Egmont Overture, Beethoven First, and all Wagner items except the act I prelude to Lohengrin appeared on both Iron Needle IN 1372 and Music & Arts 1027. The Leonore Overture No. 2 and both Lohengrin preludes were combined with the July 5 performance of Tod und Verklärung and a June 24, 1946, performance of the Beethoven First (better sound but a far less flexible and relaxed performance) on APR 5538 (a small British label noted for historic reissues, though this particular disc is now out of print). I’ve never heard the Music & Arts transfers, but the Iron Needle removed much surface noise but tended to sound harsh with a glassy quality, while the APR disc rolled back the treble on the rather noisy July 5 and 7 items, which minimized the ticks, pops, and acetate crackle but made the softer passages less clear (always a trade-off when noise reduction is employed). The entire 1949 La Fenice concert, which also included Cherubini’s Anacréon Overture, the Beethoven Sixth, Franck’s Les Eolides, and the Meistersinger Overture, was released by Pristine Classical on two CDs (PASC 115). Pristine’s transfers (of which I own the Eolides and Don Juan) are marginally more forward with somewhat less surface noise, but this was not a good-sounding set of acetates to begin with.
Listening to Caniell’s transfer of the Lohengrin act I prelude, I am much fonder of it here than the way it sounds on APR. At 9:14 (followed by applause), it is considerably slower than his supposedly relaxed recording with the New York Philharmonic (8: 44), and like portions of the Tannhäuser, it is strikingly similar to a Furtwängler performance. (One should remember that, despite their arguments over tempo consistency in Beethoven and Brahms, Toscanini considered Furtwängler a “genius” in creating mood—he emulated his performances of the Tchaikovsky Sixth and Mozart Symphony No. 40—and he often said the German’s performances of Wagner were equally valid as his own.) The Lohengrin act III prelude is, again, the most relaxed version I’ve heard at 3:24 (comparing it to the APR release, Caniell seems to have replaced the cracked horn notes with good ones), and strange as it may seem, this nearly 10-minute Meistersinger Overture is even broader than the one from his 1937 Salzburg stage performance.